Around probably 5am -ish, the contractions were getting incredibly painful. I was definitely in transition and feeling that doubt and fear in full force. The contractions were ripping through me and I was SO exhausted. The midwife checked me and said I was a “stretchy” 8cm and she was pretty sure that if she broke my water, he would be born shortly after. I’d been adamant throughout the pregnancy that I did NOT want my water broken, so I refused, but after a few more contractions, we decided to trust her judgment and let her go ahead.
The Story of Jude Coming Earthside
December 31, 2016 — 5:47am
Quick preface: For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wren’s birth story, she joined us at 38 weeks and 5 days after a quick 6 hour labor. Without going into too much detail (you can read the whole story here and here), I will tell you that the delivery was a bit complicated and left me recovering physically and emotionally for quite a while. I experienced a partial uterine inversion (my uterus started to come out of my cervix after the baby) and hemorrhaged, losing about 1 liter of blood. We suspect that this happened because the OB who delivered Wren yanked on the umbilical cord to try to speed up the process of birthing the placenta. When we found out we were pregnant again, I immediately worried about how the next delivery would go and spent a lot of time over the following months trying to find peace and allowing myself to trust our new medical team.
So, now to Jude’s story!
For those who have never created a birth plan, you may be wondering what the importance of this “birth plan” business is. It does sound a bit “crunchy”, and some of it can be depending on your preferences, but a lot of it is just being prepared to handle certain medical situations that may arise for mom and/or baby. When you are in the throws of labor, it is very hard to think clearly (for both mom & birth partner), so making these decisions ahead of time when you can research & think clearly and rationally is crucial. I think many people assume that birth plans are only for natural labors & deliveries, but it is truly just a plan for your birth and is important for every type of delivery!
Before we started trying to get pregnant, I had no idea that birth plans were a *thing*. If you’d asked me then what I hoped my future birth plan to look like, I would have said something like “go to hospital —> have baby—> go home.” However, during the nearly two year process of trying to get pregnant, I learned so much about my body and all the amazing things it is capable of. I’ve spent countless hours reading birth stories of all types in order to help me conceptualize the kind of birth I wanted. I learned two really important things reading through these other women’s experiences. One: while mom & dad (or other birth partners) birth experience IS important… NOTHING is as important as the safety of mom & baby. And two: babies have their own plans.
“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Helmuth von Moltke – German military strategist
If you’re like me, you’re walking into this birthing thing without fixating much on the “birthing experience.” Granted, this is because I am a guy and I will not be passing a small ham out of my pee hole, but that is neither here nor there. People have been having babies for, what, 10,000 years or so? I mean, you can literally have a baby entirely by accident, without even knowing that you’re pregnant until “splash” you literally take your kid to the pool when all you’re trying to do is enjoy your morning coffee. No planning, no preparation, you don’t even have to miss tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones, and you’ve got a screaming crying bundle of joy to boot. Congrats, mom! Nowhere in that equation was there a suitcase full of tennis balls, “adult” coloring books, bath salts, massage oils, and certainly not a page-long birthing plan. Plan? Continue reading “Gang Aft Agley”
I think I should preface this one with a disclaimer: I’m not one for a lot of build-up and back-story. The experience of seeing my baby girl come barreling into the world does not begin with ultrasounds, lab work, and weeks upon weeks upon months of agonizing over preparations and plans. All of that stuff occupies a separate compartment in my mind. Our baby girl wasn’t quite a little human to me until the morning she was born. I had tried my hardest, having been through a miscarriage in the past, not to become a father to my daughter until she was in my arms, breathing and crying and squealing. Of course I have a grasp on reality, but I am also firmly rooted in the pragmatic and I am really cautious and reserved when it comes to investing emotion into anything. I like to remain in control of myself, regardless of the circumstances… Continue reading “The Birth of our Baby Bird”
Once the doctor broke my bag of waters, my cervix closed back up a little bit on one side. After being fully dilated at 10cm, I was now 9.5cm, and it was no longer safe to push. We spent the next 2.5 or so hours trying to get that part of my cervix to open back up but had no such luck. I was in an incredible amount of pain and had no break between contractions. They were just on top of each other and I was starting to get really desperate. The nurses kept being sure I’d progressed to 10cm again & were constantly checking my cervix to see if we were ready.
Aaron was so great during all of this and was doing whatever he could to help me. They had me laying on my side in bed for a while to see if gravity would help the cervical lip & let me tell you, contractions while laying down were a bitch (pardon my language). When a contraction would come, I would just grab whatever part of Aaron my hand landed on and squeeze until it was over. At one point, I grabbed his shirt and accidentally yanked a handful of chest hair. Whoopsie! Poor guy.
We tried so many positions and nothing was doing the trick to get me fully dilated again. I was starting to feel very pushy but they were telling me I could NOT push until I was 10cm (obviously). I truly did not know what to do and was struggling to fight against what my body was telling me to do. I was having a really hard time not pushing, so I opted for the smallest dose of phentanyl to try to help me catch my breath. I was hoping to get ahead so that I’d be ready when it was time to push. However, it didn’t help at all with the pain & ended up making me just fall asleep between contractions.
Finally, one of the nurses decided to try to force my cervix the rest of the way. She kept her hand on my cervix trying to push it to 10cm through several contractions. HOLY hell, this was AWFUL. After what felt like an eternity, it finally gave way. That was probably (definitely) the most uncomfortable part of the entire labor. I remember actually asking the nurse to take her hand out of me for just one contraction because I couldn’t stand it any longer.
Anyway, they decided I was ready to start pushing. My doc said to go ahead and start and she was going to run to check on someone else and would be back in a few minutes. So we start some “practice” pushes. On the second (I think?) contraction, I pushed Wren into the birth canal and her head was starting to crown. The doc was not back yet because again, they had assumed I’d be pushing for a long while since I’m a first time mom. I remember thinking Wren was half way out already from the way it felt, but they told me she wasn’t.
So, with the baby in the birth canal and her head crowning, they were telling me “DON’T PUSH! Breathe like this!”. So I was trying as hard as I could to breathe and not push, but the next big contraction came and there was nothing I could do to stop it. It’s incredible how your body just takes over. I remember saying, “I’m sorry but I can’t help it!”. Aaron said I had the most apologetic look on my face. So with that contraction, my baby girl flew out all at once! My husband videoed it and it really is amazing to see her fly out from head to toe in a half of a second. One nurse, who I later found out was on orientation, just barely caught her and the second nurse was still running over putting her gloves on.
Wren was crying right away and they set her on my tummy. The cord was around her neck, so I unwrapped it. You can hear them in the video saying, “Mom coming in clutch unwrapping the cord.” I guess they had paged the doc in the midst of all of that insanity, so she came in and started washing up and said “Ok, are we ready to have a baby?!” and the nurses were like, “Uh, she’s already here.” Wren was doing perfectly, so they let us continue skin-to-skin.
Once the doctor was washed up, she asked me to push once and she tugged on the cord (we will come back to this later) and my placenta came right out. At this point, I was bleeding pretty profusely. I was still pretty out of it from the pure exhaustion of labor and increasing blood loss, so I didn’t really know what was going on. They said they were going to give me more phentanyl & some local anesthetic and work on cleaning me up. They worked on me for what seemed to be about 30 minutes, but was apparently about 2 hours.
I don’t remember much from this part but I do remember that I got to keep Wren the whole time. I just looked & looked at her perfect little self. I also remember the doc counting how many gauze pads she was putting in and taking out of me and saying a few times that we might have to go to surgery. I didn’t have a clue what was going on but was honestly too tired and mesmerized to care. They finally got things under control and then explained to me what had happened. I’d had a partial uterine inversion… AKA: My uterus had tried to come out with the baby. I just barely escaped having to have a hysterectomy & I lost a lot of blood. The doctor was finally able to slow the bleeding and push my uterus back into place. Due to my blood loss, I was right on the edge of needing a blood transfusion however, the doctor said I could supplement with iron if I preferred, which is what we chose to do.
I had to stay flat on my back for the following 24 hours to ensure that my uterus wouldn’t try to come out again. I had to be spoon fed by Aaron or a nurse, use a bedpan, and breastfeed all while laying completely flat on my back. Thankfully, my amazing baby girl has been a champion nurser from day 1, so we were still able to establish a wonderful breastfeeding relationship. I also had the most amazing nurse who went way above and beyond. She stayed with me and chatted and helped with the baby when Aaron had to go home to take care of our dogs and get the house ready. She even brought me a more comfortable hospital bed from a different part of the hospital that had better beds. I am so thankful for this. Being flat on your back for 24 straight hours after labor & delivery is pretty miserable. Funny side note- she had noticed my nail polish color & liked it, so the next morning she came in to check on me and showed me that she’d gone and gotten hers done that color, too. We were instantly buds (I guess that happens when someone is literally dealing with your shit) & she truly made a huge difference in my experience.
My doctor came later that day & told us that we had been in a “true obstetric emergency”. I guess this isn’t something that had happened at this particular hospital before and she said that the OBGYN’s at the hospital had been talking about how to handle inversions in future situations. She also said that she was thankful to have previously worked at a hospital that dealt with high risk pregnancies, so she’d experienced an inversion before and knew how to handle it.
That day I also received a visit from the hospital CEO. He said that he visits different units in the hospital every day to see how things are going & that this was just routine, but I’m a little suspicious that it had something to do with our emergency situation.
The rest of our story is pretty simple… we went home that Friday, November 20th, 2 days after Wren came into the world. She was as healthy as could be from day 1 and was already at her birth weight again after only 3 days. I healed relatively quickly & my blood levels were normalized after about 3 weeks. My uterus has stayed put and I shouldn’t have any problems getting pregnant again (well not anymore than we already have).
The doctor did said say that I will likely not be able to have anymore natural labors. She said that a second uterine inversion is likely and since my first labor was so fast, I would probably have to have a “very controlled” induction at 38 weeks where they pull the baby out with forceps while someone holds my uterus inside me. This seems a little extreme to me and after further research, I’m not sure I’ll be taking her advice here.
So that’s our long, crazy, beautiful story of how we got our little baby bird, Wren Marí.
A few thoughts after my birth experience…
First, I think that the uterine inversion was likely caused by my doctor pulling on the placenta. That is a HUGE no-no & a known cause of inversions. Doctors KNOW this, so I’m not sure if she was just in a hurry or didn’t believe that it could really happen. I think she knew she messed up & I think this is also why I was visited by the hospital CEO. They are all very lucky that I healed well & won’t have any lasting repercussions from her actions.
I’d made a birth plan and given a copy to my doctor, but I wish I had made sure to go over each part of it with her. There are a lot of things that I wish we had done differently that I think would have made a difference in our labor & delivery experience. I think we could have avoided a lot of the drama.
Things that were in my birth plan that didn’t happen:
-I had a lot of things I was going to tell myself during labor that I knew would help me get through it. For example, “don’t fight against the contraction” and even something as simple and obvious as, “this is temporary & your baby girl is just hours (or less!) away.” I could NOT think anything at all during labor & I should have made sure Aaron knew these.
-I did not want my water broken. There is NO reason the waters need to be broken before the baby is born and I wish I’d just let my body do its job.
-I did not want to be told when to start pushing. I wanted to wait until my body started pushing on its own and push as my body directed me, rather than pushing as the doctors counted & instructed.
-I wanted to allow my placenta to come on it’s own. The body will contract again to expel the placenta without any direction from a doctor, and I feel pretty strongly that if this had happened naturally, I wouldn’t have had the inversion.
In the end though, we got a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She didn’t have any health problems as a result of our experience & for that I am SO grateful. I am hopeful that we will get pregnant again and that I’ll be able to use Wren’s birth experience to help us have a more drama-free labor & delivery.
If you’ve had a baby, do you have things you wish you’d done differently? If you’ve had more than one, do you feel like your experience with the first helped for the second or third babies? If you haven’t had kids yet, have you thought about how you’d like your labor & delivery experience to go? Share with us, we’d love to hear from you!
Wren Marí Clifford
November 18, 2015
6 lbs 14.1 oz, 18 inches long
I think labor really started for me on Monday, November 16th. I had been having non-stress tests (NST’s) once a week since I was 36 weeks pregnant because we found an echogenic intracardiac focus (bright spot on the heart) at our 20 week anatomy scan. Sometimes these bright spots can be markers for other problems with the baby, so we went on to have a detailed ultrasound performed by a perinatologist as well as noninvasive prenatal testing to look for possible chromosomal abnormalities. Our testing and ultrasound came back normal and we were cleared. Although the EIF was ruled an “incidental finding” and nothing of concern, my OBGYN wanted us to have the NST’s just to be on the extra safe side. An NST is a simple way to confirm that the baby is still doing well in utero & is tolerating everything well as they near the end of their time in mommy’s tummy. I was to have a NST once a week from 36 weeks until I had the baby.
I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions (during activity) since I was about 20 weeks pregnant and started getting them throughout the day around 36 or 37 weeks. There was no pain or pattern with them, just periodic tightening. At my 37 week NST, the Braxton Hicks were picked up on the contraction monitor and we could see that they were regularly about 8-10 minutes apart, but I was only 1/2cm dilated (same as the previous week), so they sent me home. The contractions continued but never developed any kind of pattern. At my 38 week NST (11/16) I was again having pretty regular Braxton Hicks and they were picked up on the monitor at about 3 minutes apart for the full 30 minutes I was there. I also had my first painful contraction while I was there, but it was only that one. Because I was having such frequent contractions, they almost didn’t let me leave the hospital! They called my OBGYN, who came to check my cervix, and I was still only 1/2 cm dilated. Since I hadn’t made any progress, they sent me on my way and told me that since I was full term, I was welcome to come back and have the baby any time after that. Oh, thanks. I’ll get right on that!
Most of my pregnancy, my doctor and I had been sure that I was going to have the baby early, but I was starting to think that maybe I would go the full 40 weeks (I wasn’t even willing to entertain the idea that I could possibly go longer than 40). I was scheduled to finish work that Friday, November 20th, at 39 weeks. Since I wasn’t due until November 27th & this was my first baby, I figured I was ahead of the game and would have plenty of time once I finished work to get the house and everything ready. I continued my work week as usual and spent most of my days rolling and bouncing on the yoga ball as I worked. My hips and back were incredibly sore and the ball was far more comfortable than a desk chair.
Wednesday, the 17th, was a normal day… nothing out of the ordinary. I came home from work, we got take-out for dinner, and I lazed around on the couch until bedtime. I didn’t have any inkling of an idea of what was about to happen. At 1:40am, I woke up to a weird pain and thought it might have been because I had to pee, so I got up and went to the bathroom. As I laid back down, I had another strange pain. This time, I thought I must have just moved funny while I was laying down. Being that pregnant and huge, pretty much every movement caused some type of discomfort, so I didn’t think too much about it. These pains felt NOTHING like what I expected contractions to feel like. I laid in bed and a few minutes later, another pain. This third one made me a tiny bit suspicious that something might be up. A few more minutes passed & I had yet another pain. I decided to just stand up and see if anything changed if I switched positions. I was leaning over our dresser for a few minutes and had two more contractions. Aaron woke up and said “Are you having a baby?” which made me laugh and I told him I wasn’t sure but that I was going to head out to the living room for a bit so I didn’t keep him awake. He said he was going to try to sleep incase it was labor so that he’d have the energy he needed when the time came.
Out in the living room, I got out my contraction timer app and started timing the pains. They were consistently 3 minutes apart and each lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. I was a little bit confused because I had kind of expected to ease into labor. Most of what I’d read about labor went over scenarios where the mom starts having contractions about 10-12 minutes apart that slowly grow closer and closer together over the course of several hours. These books said to go to the hospital when contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for one hour. However, these were coming pretty fast (already closer together than 5 minutes) and increasing rapidly in intensity. I think I only went through about 30 minutes of contractions before I went and woke Aaron up. To be honest, I think he definitely thought I was being dramatic.
I decided to call the hospital because I wasn’t sure what to do. I had only been in labor for like 45 minutes but the contractions were already getting pretty serious. The nurse that answered told me that since I’m a first time mom, I have a long while to go and I should drink some water and take a bath and stay at home for as long as possible. She said that if I came to the hospital now, I would probably end up with a bunch of interventions that I didn’t want. Hm. So I decided I would try and wait. Probably 20-30 more minutes passed and the contractions were getting more & more painful and closer together. I was panicking at the thought of having to sit in the car during contractions to get to the hospital. Despite what the nurse told me, I told Aaron it was time to go so we packed up and off we went. Even then, I think he thought we would probably get to the hospital and they would just check me and send me home.
The car ride sucked as much as I thought it would. Once we got to the hospital, they took us into a room and the same nurse I spoke to on the phone came in. She said that I didn’t need to change into the gown to be checked since they would probably be sending us home (seriously?! I don’t know why she was so convinced I wasn’t in labor). They checked me and I was 4cm dilated, the baby was engaged, and contractions were very clear on the monitor. Much to everyones surprise (well, except mine), they confirmed that I was in active labor & admitted me. This was at about 4am, give or take. At this point, the contractions were pretty rough and I was having to concentrate to get through them.
The following two hours were such a blur. Labor was hard and fast and I really didn’t feel like I was getting much of a break to get ahead of the next contraction. I spent most of the time leaning over a yoga ball that was on the bed while Aaron rubbed my lower back. I just zoned out and don’t think I talked almost at all during this time. I would just moan and get into position and that way Aaron knew it was time to rub my back. Later, we would realize that I’d had him rub my back so hard that there were big blistered spots on both sides of my back. Whoops!
Throughout this time, the heart rate monitor for the baby wouldn’t stay in place, so we kept losing her heartbeat. I knew she was okay, but they had to be able to keep a consistent heartbeat to know that the baby wasn’t in distress. So during contractions, a nurse would wrap herself around me to hold the monitor in place. It was really difficult to labor comfortably with a nurse all up in my space, but I knew they were trying to help me avoid an unnecessary intervention.
At about 6am, my doctor arrived and they checked me again and I was complete (fully dilated). I’d dilated 6cm in two hours… that certainly explains the level of intensity! I was so thrilled to be almost done. My water still hadn’t broken so my doc wanted to break it to get the pushing process started. I had put in my birth plan that I did NOT want my water broken, but I hadn’t thought about what I would do if I was fully dilated and it hadn’t broken, so I let her do it. I was desperate to meet my baby girl. She said it was a very tough bag and she had a hard time breaking it and I often wonder if Wren would have been born en caul (in the bag of waters) if the doc hadn’t broken it.
From here, things started to go downhill.
Keep an eye out for the rest of Wrens birth story in Part 2! Subscribe to our blog to be notified when it’s posted!